Monday, April 20, 2015

Summer...A Time to Repair and Prepare

         Since opening in November after overseeding...I am guessing to date we have been fortunate enough to provide 35,000 golfers with an enjoyable round of golf the last 5 1/2 months.
         As the season winds down and we head into summer, it is imperative that we as agronomist, re-start the never ending  process of repairing , amending and preparing the golf course turf for next season.
        Severe soil compaction from daily cart traffic in fairways and roughs is becoming more evident as temperatures increase. Core removal (The "A" word) is critical in order to provide needed oxygen and gaseous exchange in the soil profile. It needs to breathe. Roots need a balance of water and air in the pore space below the ground in order to remain healthy. Compaction negatively affects that balance...aerification prevents and alleviates that imbalance. Simple Science.
        Beginning in mid- April we will begin deep slicing the fairways and roughs. Slicing creates a small void 4-6 inches deep in the soil. This allows moisture to work its way deeper into the soil and softens up firm areas. Slicing also cuts the stolons and rhizomes (the lateral growing parts of the plants above and below ground) of the bermudagrass...aiding in the growth process of the turfgrass.
We will then follow up with a core removal ("A" word) on all fairways, approaches and roughs. After cores are allowed to dry..we will pulverize them with a large drag mat. The large amount of thatch and dead plant debris remaining after will be blown into rows and vacuumed up. This process can easily be accomplished in a 1 hole per day process. However, as we have experienced in the past, with high volumes of summer play, the guests are unfortunately exposed to the process for several months.
      Tees and approaches will be aerified in the same manner. This will be performed throughout the day in order to complete it in a timely manner. Please remember..all of this is absolutely necessary and non discretionary. In order to enjoy the quality conditions we have, year in and year out..this process is mandatory. Getting it completed in a timely manner..gets the turf back in great shape you can continue to enjoy it...longer.
       Greens aerification is a bit more invasive and intense...and it is done for all the above reasons. I will post another article in the next few weeks to explain in depth ( no pun intended) some of the results from annual tests we have done on our greens over the last four years.
        In the meantime, check out this short video from Dr Larry Stowell. Thanks for checking in.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Course Update

"In this day and age, a golf-course superintendent must be an educator, scientist, agronomist,
economist and a good people manager. If you put all this together with a love for a piece of earth,
then you've got a good golf- course superintendent."
- Tom Watson

    Updating the blog falls under there somewhere too.

    Since my last post we have successfully transitioned the golf course from cool season over-seed to bermudagrass without any issues. This past summer was also very productive from an agronomic perspective as we were able to do all the things necessary to ensure a good playable surface year round. We were blessed with great weather in early October which allowed us to come out of over-seeding in great shape. As the tee sheet starts to fill up and the divots start flying, we look for every opportunity to get our work done in an efficient manner while not getting in the way. This often requires us to do a majority of our mowing in the pre-dawn hours before play or early evening when there is a gap in the tee sheet. From a business standpoint it is obviously more productive to have people on mowers cutting fairways and roughs when there is very little or no play. Unfortunately, little or no play is not conducive to a very successful business model so it is a balancing act between being able to provide an experience that exceeds the guests expectations while still investing in time, maintenance and protection of our biggest asset.

     Another integral part of the playing experience at Legacy is the 100 acres of native area surrounding the course. It is a really unique environment that provides a habitat for jackrabbits, birds and other wildlife...along with about 1000 golf balls. Over the past year we started working our way through the native area irrigation system (valves, wiring, drip lines, over head irrigation) and are making repairs to ensure we can irrigate select areas as needed. This requires a significant amount of time and troubleshooting and is an ongoing project. Once irrigation is restored to these areas we will need a well though out comprehensive tree planting program and an overall "native area" water management plan. All golf courses have a specific water allotment that is monitored by the Arizona Department of Water Resources. We are in the desert, and it is critical that we utilize this precious resource wisely.
    As always, feel free to flag me down on the golf course with any questions, comments or concerns. I am more than happy to do everything I can to make your experience enjoyable.

Mike Connors
Golf Course Superintendent

Monday, July 8, 2013

This article appears courtesy of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.)
It's a perfect, sunny morning and you've just reached the first green in regulation. You feel great and you know you're within birdie range. Then, you see them, those little holes in the green. Arrggh! They've just aerified the course, and it's going to ruin your round, right?
Well, maybe not. Consider the fact that PGA Tour legend Tom Watson shot a sizzling record 58 at his then-home course, Kansas City Country Club, just days after the greens had been aerified.

Consider also that aerification is merely a short-term disruption that has long-term benefits for golf courses. When you see them, remember that without those little holes, the greens would eventually die.
Preventative maintenance is an integral part of successful golf course management. Golfers view aerification as an inconvenience that takes the greens out of play for a day, pulling cores from the greens and leaving holes that can affect putting for many days before healing. To add insult to injury, aerification is best done in many part of the country during mid-summer, at the height of the playing season and when most greens are in prime condition.
But a golfer needs to understand how important aerification is to producing healthy turf.
Aerification (also known as aeration) achieves three important objectives. It relieves soil compaction, it provides a method to improve the soil mixture around the highest part of a green's roots and it reduces or prevents the accumulation of excess thatch.
Like so many things, the quality of a good putting green is more than skin deep. In fact, the condition of a green has a lot to do with what goes on below the surface. In order for grass to grow at 3/16-inch, it must have deep, healthy roots. Good roots demand oxygen. In good soil, they get the oxygen from tiny pockets of air trapped between soil and sand particles.
Over time, the traffic from golfers's feet (as well as mowing equipment) tends to compact the soil under the putting green - particularly when the soil contains a lot of clay. When soil becomes compacted, the air pockets on which the roots depend are crushed, and the roots are essentially left gasping for air. Without oxygen, the grass plants become weaker and will eventually wither and die.
Aerification is a mechanical process that creates more air space in the soil and promotes deeper rooting, thus helping the grass plants stay healthy. In most cases, it's done by removing half-inch cores (those plugs you sometimes see near a green or in fairways) from the compacted soil, allowing for an infusion of air and water that brings a resurgence of growth. The spaces are then filled with sand "topdressing" that helps the soil retain air space and makes it easier for roots to grow downward.
Older greens often are constructed of soils with significant amounts of silt, clay and fine organic particles that are prone to compaction. Filling aerification holes with sand improves drainage and resists compaction. The periodic introduction of sand to a green's top layer can, over time, avoid or postpone expensive rebuilding or renovation of greens.
Finally, growing of turf adds to a layer of organic matter on the surface. This layer, called thatch, is an accumulation of dead stems, leaves and roots. A little organic matter makes for a resilient green, but too much invites diseases and insects. Topdressing with sand can prevent thatch buildup, and aerification is one of the best ways to reduce an existing layer and prevent an excess of thatch from becoming established.
Other aerification techniques use machines with "tines"; or knives that simply poke holes through the soil profile. A new technique even uses ultra high-pressure water that's injected through the soil profile to create small holes that relieve some compaction but heal quickly.
There are many types of aerifying machines with different attachments that address different problems in the various stages of the life of a green. So the next time you're ready to scream when the aerifiers are brought on the course, remember that a little preventative maintenance produces the best greens over the long haul.
The bottom line is that aerification is a necessary practice. But before you curse the superintendent for ruining your day, just think of Tom Watson.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring is Here?

    After a week with temperatures in the 90's it appears we may have skipped spring this year. Nevertheless,I am assured by weather forecaster's that normal spring temps are in store for us over the next  few weeks. 
    With increased soil temperatures we will continue to see a gradual greening of Bermudagrass and a rapid growth cycle of the ryegrass overseed. Air and soil temperatures will slowly increase as we move into April and the turfgrass environment will be more conducive to Bermudagrass growth and a slow decline of the cool season overseed.
   There are many cultural activities that are performed to maintain a favorable growing environment for Bermudagrass and all turf in general. Among them, a form of aerification called "venting" is a process that involves puncturing the entire surface of a green with a metal tine or spike to a depth of 2 to 4 inches. These small holes do several things:


  • Allow an exchange between gases built up in the soil and oxygen from the environment.
  • Creates a large pore space in the soil that can aid in surface drainage as well as better utilization of irrigation.
  • Relieves compaction from equipment and foot traffic.


  After the green is vented, a light weight roller is used to smooth out any small surface disruptions. 

   The end result is a well vented green with no affect on ball roll. Since this process is done in the early morning hours, there is no disruption in play. 
   Greens are typically vented monthly as part of a preventative maintenance program. Venting frequencies will often increase following heavy rain events, during spring transition to Bermudagrass and when conditions become favorable for turfgrass disease. 
    As always, we welcome all questions or comments regarding turf management at The Legacy so feel free to flag me down on the course or contact the golf staff if you need anything. 
    Thanks for stopping by!!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

We started out January this year with record low temperatures which really slowed down the growth of our turf grass. I guess the only good thing to come out of this was the fact that our restaurant kept busy during the frost delays. A week of 80 degree temperatures and record rainfall eventually encouraged the growth of our cool season over-seed but also unfortunately triggered some sporadic weed growth in the native areas. Routinely throughout the next few weeks we will be applying post emergent herbicide (Roundup) for control of these areas. Pre-emergent herbicide will be applied to the non over seeded bunker faces in order to prevent summer weeds from populating these areas. A colored dye or tracker is mixed with the herbicide in order to ensure adequate and uniform application and it leaves a light green hue on the normally dormant bunker face which will fade over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

     With warmer temperatures approaching and summer right around the corner we are starting the transition from cool season grass to warm season "Bermudagrass". The cool season overseed we planted in October has performed well this past winter and is in a state of rapid growth. As soil temperatures increase even more and daytime temperatures stay in the 90's, the cool season grass will eventually die. This is a good thing and necessary to ensure strong bermuda recovery.
     The tough part of our job as superintendents is to allow the cool season grass to die and let the bermudagrass grow without anybody noticing it. Mother Nature plays the key part in transition, however we need to be proactive with our cultural activities. There is a lot of new chemistry on the market these days that superintendents can use to speed up recovery during transition. Golf courses in higher elevations in the valley will actually spray the cool season grass with an herbicide that will kill all the cool season grass within a few weeks and this allows the bermuda to grow without competition. In higher elevations, the cool season grass will tend to hang on a little longer. One downside of this approach is that you have to look at brown turf for quite awhile.
     Our approach at Legacy is more gradual. At least that is the plan that has been successful in the past. You may have noticed we reduced the height of cut on fairways and roughs. The goal here is to allow sunlight to penetrate the canopy and expose the underlying bermuda (photosynthesis). By lowering the cuts we also cause some stress to the cool season grass. Light vertical mowing, aerification and slicing are performed to allow water to penetrate the turf canopy. Vertical mowing also reduces cool season grass population in the canopy, allowing bermudagrass to eventually dominate the playing surface. Slicing will sever the growing part of the bermuda plant called a stolon. From this severing point, the stolon will peg or root and continue to grow horizontally, it will continue to peg and grow new leaf tissue as it moves. Fertility is also crucial during this time and applications are made nightly through the irrigation system. We will do some periodic spot fertilization as well.
     With little or no rain we are totally dependent on the irrigation system to deliver the amount of water evenly and precisely where we need it. Unfortunately no irrigation system is perfect no matter how well it is installed. With over 2,000 sprinkler heads on the course and various elevations and soil types, we ultimately get some areas that transition slower than others. It is perfectly normal to see brown patches at this time of year, especially on south facing slopes and areas where we get high cart traffic. These areas if you notice, will have faster bermudagrass recovery because there is no competition from the cool season grass. We will address these areas with localized irrigation and cultural practices as they appear.
     At the end of the day, we can do all of these things right but ultimately, weather will play a dominant role in our transition. As of today the greens appear to have 30 - 40% bermuda on the surface already. Fairways and roughs appear to have 20-25% bermudagrass on the surface. The greens surfaces have bermuda and cool season grass growing together so they appear thick and lush. This also results in a lot of resistance on the golf ball when you are putting. Verticutting again will thin out the surface and mechanical rolling will help to produce a smoother ball roll.
    Visit the sight next month for further updates. Until then, swing hard just in case you hit the ball.....see you on the course.